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U.S. official arrives in Abkhazia to assist talks with Georgia

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Matthew Bryza, the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, arrived on Saturday in Abkhazia to discuss the current situation between the self-proclaimed republic and Georgia.
SUKHUMI, May 10 (RIA Novosti) - Matthew Bryza, the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, arrived on Saturday in Abkhazia to discuss the current situation between the self-proclaimed republic and Georgia.

Tensions in the region arouse since Russia's former president Vladimir Putin called for closer ties between Moscow and two Georgia's breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in mid-April. Georgia has accused Russia of trying to annex its territories.

Russia, which has run peacekeeping operations in Abkhazia and South Ossetia since bloody conflicts in the 1990s, has recently dispatched additional troops to Abkhazia to deter what it calls a planned Georgian military offensive. Tbilisi accuses Russian troops of siding with separatists and calls for replacing them with an international contingent.

The U.S. official, who met with President of Abkhazia Sergei Bagapsh and Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba said the situation in the region is really tense but not as much as not to find the way out of it.

Bryza added that the main aim for his arrival in the region is to promote a dialogue between Abkhazia and Georgia.

President Bagapsh said in turn that Abkhazia "is ready to take part in the talks and welcomes peace initiatives, but only in case of implementation of the earlier reached agreements with Georgia."

Moscow has increased the number of Russian peacekeepers in Abkhazia from 2,000 to 3,000 servicemen, but said that it was within the limits set by earlier agreements with the Georgian leadership.

Tbilisi also accused Russia of shooting down its drone over Abkhazia on April 20 - a claim Russia flatly denied, calling Georgia's video footage fake.

Abkhazia has since claimed it had downed several more Georgian reconnaissance planes, with the last one having reportedly been shot down on Thursday. Tbilisi denied the downings.

Abkhazia, alongside South Ossetia, broke away from Georgia in the early 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Between 10,000 and 30,000 people were killed in the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict and some 3,000 in Georgian-South Ossetian hostilities. Georgia is looking to regain control over the two de facto independent republics.

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